Campus changes are concerning

Four residence halls at Truman State University are being partially closed for the 2021-22 academic year, leaving only two residence halls completely open. 

The closures have been quite a topic of discussion among many of those living in the residence halls. However, it seems like many older students, especially those living off campus, don’t seem to know or care about the residence hall closures. 

While it’s easy to see these floor closures as just the latest of many budget cuts, it’s important to stop and think about their impact. These closures are a concerning sign of the more deeply-rooted issues at Truman.

Enrollment has been down for the past four years. From fall 2019 to fall 2020 enrollment fell from 5,213 to 4,655, according to the Fall 2020 Enrollment Report. For the 2017-18 academic year, 6,272 students were enrolled, meaning the fall 2020 enrollment is down over 25% from a mere three years ago. A 25% decrease in three years is not a statistic that can be simply swept under the rug, it’s a significant and concerning trend. 

Not only is enrollment down, but more and more programs, resources and buildings are being cut. With budget cut after budget cut, it seems like the University is struggling to stay afloat.  

Men’s tennis was cut after the spring 2018 semester. After the spring 2019 semester, the wrestling program was cut. Dobson was shut down completely for the 2019-2020 academic year. Majors such as Russian, athletic training and interdisciplinary systems have been cut. Early retirement incentives were offered during 2018 to prevent layoffs. 

Cutting programs and shutting down areas of buildings by themselves aren’t necessarily red flags. Additionally, it’s hard to tell how many of these issues are because of the pandemic and statewide budget cuts. However, other state colleges aren’t dealing with the drastic enrollment issues that Truman is. For example, the University of Missouri-Columbia had an enrollment rate for the fall 2020 semester that was 3.5% higher than the fall 2019 semester. Missouri State University’s enrollment was up by 0.1% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, not a significant increase but not as worrisome as the decreases seen at Truman. 

There are several strategies being employed by the Admissions Office, such as on-campus tours, increased communication with potential students and a test flexible option for students applying to the University. However, it remains to be seen if these strategies will be effective, as many of these were also in place last year. 

The residence hall closures lead to important questions for students and administration. Why is enrollment so low? How many more majors and programs are going to be cut? How many more buildings will be closed? What is the future of the University?  

While it might be easier for older students to brush off these questions, as a freshman with three more years at Truman, these questions feel important. These residence hall closures shouldn’t be the hot topic of the week until bigger news comes along, they should be a potential warning sign. While there’s no need to panic or be pessimistic, there is certainly a need to be aware, and there might be a need to be concerned. Right now, the Truman administration needs to be asking themselves: What needs to change?